by Dennis Lowery

Fighting back isn’t easy. Often — in stories and real life — it’s scary, and you risk everything when you do. But sometimes you have to accept and release your ‘madness.’

Feeling helpless is bad. Being powerless is worse.

  1. Situations and circumstances can make you feel that way.
  2. Authority (empowered and enabled by unfair or ill-applied laws) can make you feel that way.
  3. Individuals with power and position that serve only their interests or desires and care little for others… can make you feel that way. And feel threatened.

Much of what’s wrong that we protest — inequality, racism, and bias — stems from number three (as do the two preceding it). It is the seed and root that bears a bitter — perennial — crop. Abuse is as old as mankind.

Abusers are authority figures — real or perceived, and mostly men with a presumption of absolute control and entitlement — who lack a moral compass. They care little for others… and those farthest down the chain — their internal order of importance — are the ones they hurt most. This too is as true today as it has been for thousands of years. 

Some abused feel they are to blame, it’s their fault….

“I sometimes have moments of such despair, such despair… Because in those moments I think I will never be capable of living a real life; because I have already begun to think I have lost all sense of proportion, all sense of the real and the actual; because, what is more, I have cursed myself….”

—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, White Nights

Fighting injustice (social or personal) is a marathon battle. A long haul. But abuse — especially physical abuse — can’t be fought the same way. Laws are in place to punish abusers. When they are caught and proven guilty. Often, it’s too late. The damage was (is) done, or the victim’s soul is shattered or their voice… silenced.

In extremis, when a person is confronted with circumstances or a situation that has become too much to bear… it can lead to their Rubicon — that ‘can’t take it back’ decision — the moment where everything changes.

“This explosive psychological ‘sneaking’ occurs when a woman suppresses large parts of self into the shadows of the psyche. In the view of analytical psychology, the repression of both negative and positive instincts urges, and feelings into the unconscious cause them to inhabit a shadow realm. While the ego and superego attempt to continue to censor the shadow impulses, the very pressure that repression causes is rather like a bubble in the sidewall of a tire. Eventually, as the tire revolves and heats up, the pressure behind the bubble intensifies, causing it to explode outward, releasing all the inner content.”

—Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

People either:

  • Give in and suffer or give up, lay down and take it until they die (or are killed). Death is almost always a sure thing in this scenario.
  • Or defend themselves, defy and fight back… and have a chance.

Most of my stories have characters that reach their Rubicon — that point — where they step over that line and their life changes. What empowers my characters is a simple principle: the power of self-determination. A belief you dictate what happens in your life — it’s how you respond to bad shit — and that’s what gets you through to where and who you want to be.

It isn’t easy. Often — in stories and real life — it’s scary, and you risk everything when you fight back.

In extreme circumstances — and I want to stress extreme would be physical conflict or abuse — I don’t believe in turning a cheek, forgiving and forgetting. I am not my brother’s keeper; I will kick his ass — or try to — and want a piece of anyone who fucks with me, hurts me, my family or friends. And I won’t stop till I get payback. I don’t care who thinks me wrong, they can be who they are… and I’ll be how I am.

Many of my stories reflect that belief. For me — a father of four daughters — when a man who has hurt (or is about to harm) innocent women receives immediate punishment, even in fiction, it feels good. It feels right.

The Crossing - Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery (alt cover)

Some of my characters — like in The Crossing and new story BALL-PEEN that ties into that story’s main character — after much suffering, fight back. What they do — their retribution — is harsh. And some events that drive the character to that reaction and retaliation are disturbing. As are their actions… what leads to their payback.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”

—Carl Jung, the Philosophical Tree; Alchemical Studies
BALL PEEN - Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery

Those parts of my stories might make readers uncomfortable. My wife thought BALL-PEEN was dark, which it is… but its setting and events are a re-birth, a trigger point (that presents the main character’s Rubicon) and an awakening. In that, what I write reflects reality… cruel things happen to real people every day.

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole.”

—Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

In a conversation about The Crossing with one of my social media followers, I described the story as: “There comes a time when the light and dark side of a person is truly revealed, and events don’t go as expected.” I know we read stories for entertainment and escapism. Not all stories that accomplish that are set in clean-street cities full of light and free zero-calorie French vanilla ice cream (or one of your choice) that tastes like it has a thousand. Scenes and settings caked with mud and blood cloaked in shadows engage the reader at a visceral level. They may squirm as they read… but as they stay the course and finish the story… they will see justice delivered. That’s an expectation — a hopeful one — when readers pick up a story about what happens when bad things happen to good people.

If a self-determined justice type of story interests you, I think you’ll enjoy my new short story BALL-PEEN. I know, an odd title but it makes sense once you read the story. Within that story, you find the origin — what made her do what she does and has done — of the main character in my story The CrossingBALL-PEEN is a standalone episode but supplements that story.

Let me know what you think of the stories.


“Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So, accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead, you should give it life… If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature… Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.”

—Carl Jung, The Red Book